CEPA and Freedom House Launch Belarus Working Group

Washington

The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and Freedom House today announced the launch of the Belarus Working Group, a bipartisan gathering of leading scholars, analysts and former policymakers tasked with identifying sustainable and impactful Western strategies for supporting Belarusian civil society and dealing with “Europe’s last dictatorship.” Co-chaired by CEPA President A. Wess Mitchell and Freedom House President David J. Kramer, the findings of the project will provide an actionable policy roadmap for catalyzing democratic change in the country.

Belarus is experiencing its worst economic crisis as a result of reckless economic policies pursued by the regime’s leader, Aleksandr Lukashenka, that include irresponsibly raising salaries of state employees to buy votes before last year’s December 19th elections and maintaining state control over more than 70 percent of the economy. This has meant rapidly declining hard currency reserves; plummeting savings and real wages; rising prices for food, fuel and imported goods; and limits on exports, all of which are causing a rising tide of protests throughout the country. Despite these immediate challenges, Lukashenka chooses to focus his energy on perpetuating his repressive crackdown against members of the opposition, civil society and journalists, a number of whom have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms or have fled the country. These developments call for robust U.S. and European Union (EU) policies that could help bring about real democratic change in Belarus, which will benefit all Belarusians.

CEPA will publish the findings of the Belarus Working Group in an upcoming report, “Democratic Change in Belarus,” which will provide policy recommendations and identify strategies for long-term democratic reform. The launch of this working group coincides with the opening of Freedom House’s new office in Vilnius, Lithuania, which is focused on supporting democracy and human rights in neighboring Belarus.  

One of the world’s worst human rights abusers, Belarus is included in Freedom House’s annual Worst of the Worst report. Belarus is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, as well as Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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